The 24th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys put their perfect home record on the line once again, as they square off against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles on Saturday afternoon at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
TTU's early season has been highlighted by its streakiness, as it opened on a three-game win streak and immediately followed that up with three straight losses. The Eagles have been more even-keeled in the month of December, going 3-2, although they are fresh off an 81-62 loss at the hands of Auburn on Tuesday night.
After starting the season unranked, Oklahoma State has risen to No. 24 after an outstanding 9-1 start, with the high point coming in a 76-56 win over nationally-ranked NC State in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off back on Nov. 18. The Cowboys improved to 6-0 at home on Wednesday with an easy 69-44 win over Texas-Arlington.
This contest marks the first-ever meeting on the hardwood between these two schools.
It's been a modest start for the TTU offense, as it shoots 45.5 percent from the field for 68.2 ppg, but it has been able to win more games than it has lost by holding opponents to just 39.5 percent shooting and 63.5 ppg. Nothing went right in the 19-point road loss to Auburn however, as the Eagles shot just 37.3 percent from the floor, including a woeful 1-of-18 from 3-point range, while committing 17 turnovers. They were also in foul trouble all night, as they sent Auburn to the foul line 40 times (30-of-40). Jud Dillard overcame the sluggish night from his team by logging 22 points and seven rebounds, while Dennis Ogbe added 14 points on 6-of-9 from the field. Dillard is the Ohio Valley Conference's second-leading scorer with 19.0 ppg, and he puts together stellar percentages from the field (.488) and the foul line (.844). Jeremiah Samarrippas (9.6 ppg) and Lanerryl Johnson (9.5 ppg) are the Eagles' next-best scoring options, with Samarrippas handing out 4.4 apg as well.
Oklahoma State's field goal percentage hasn't been great (.437), but by making nearly 78 percent of its free throws it is able to pile up 71.5 ppg. Pair its offensive performance with some stingy defensive play (56.8 ppg), and it boasts one of the best scoring margins in the Big 12 (plus-14.7). The Cowboys are coming off their best defensive effort of the season against UTA, as they allowed just 44 points on 39.1 percent shooting while forcing an incredible 31 turnovers. Leading the way in the victory was Markel Brown with 17 points and five steals, while Phil Forte had 13 points and Le'Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart netted 10 points apiece. On the season, Nash has been the scoring catalyst for OSU as he puts up 15.9 ppg, and Brown is hot on his heels with 14.3 ppg. Smart (12.7 ppg) hasn't started his freshman campaign off very efficiently (.354), but he has more than made up for it by being a menace across the stat sheet, leading the team with 6.6 rpg, 5.2 apg, 2.6 spg and 1.2 bpg.